Then You Stay: A Review of Artis Henderson’s “Unremarried Widow”

The Military Spouse Book Review

reviewed by Simone Gorrindo (Army)

When Andria first asked me to review Artis Henderson’s debut memoir, Unremarried Widow, I was hesitant.

I’d been wanting to read the book for some time, but the cliché is true: that knock on my front door really is my worst nightmare. There’s a dark corner of my mind where that nightmare lives, a place I try my best to avoid, and I knew that to read Henderson’s grief would be to go to that place and stay there for a while. And parts of Henderson’s book were painful to read – I wept when the casualty officers informed her, in standard cold military language, of her husband’s death; when she discovered a video of him among his things that he’d intended to send her before he died; when she took off her wedding ring for the first time. But, mostly, I felt awe…

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Dearest friends,

It’s hard to believe that it has already been 10months since we waved goodbye from our wedding car! Marriage is such a gift, and life since has been quite the adventure!

Predictably, our time in Christchurch began rather shakily.  After much time, and prayer we managed to find a cute little cottage house. We looked at over 30 houses before finding it! With many houses destroyed through quake damage, it was much more difficult to find something safe and affordable than we had expected. We were thankful to find it!

Matt settled into his study right away, and I started doing some writing while also continuing to recover and have more medical tests and treatment. We found a wonderful church, that we absolutely loved, which really built into our beginning months of marriage.

Matt stayed VERY busy with grad-school, but we still managed to make time to enjoy lots of community events and the outdoors. We had fun celebrating our anniversary on the 4th of every month, and, on a meagre budget, managed to get to Lewis pass, Arthurs pass, Mt Cook and lots of other beautiful places in the South Island. New Zealand is gorgeous! Everywhere you look, there is something else to  “ooo & aah” at!

Matt did exceptionally well at grad-school and finished right on time. After staying in ChCh a little after his graduation, AND experiencing our first snow, he got a job in Coromandel….

So….we packed up the car and off we went!  Although we loved our stay in ChCh, when the time came, we were ready to leave. What with the cold descending in upon us, and earthquakes visiting us every couple of days or so, it was getting a little tiring.

The road trip up was a LOT of fun. Highlights being a visit to a seal pup colony, and following hundreds of dolphins on the inter-island ferry crossing.

Suddenly, we found ourselves in the North Island. This meant being closer to family! Hurray!

Coromandel is gorgeous. We have been so fortunate to have a lovely little home with a sea view and have loved all the outdoor adventures that Coro has an abundance of. Matt has settled in well to his new job teaching yr. 7. They LOVE him! Who wouldn’t though? I continue with my writing and gradual recovery.

Now…we are about to embark on another adventure and are heading across the seas to visit my home in Tanzania for the holidays. SO exciting!  We can’t wait to spend Christmas with my parents and have a wedding celebration with TZ friends.

We thank God for his faithfulness to us through this year and pray a blessing on your lives. We hope that you all have a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS and a WONDERFUL holiday season!

Much love to you all,

Matt & Kirsty

One hour in the park. Autumn, Christchurch, New Zealand.

All is suddenly quiet.  After a bread feeding  frenzy where squawking, squabbling, and flapping of wings  filled the air with sound the sudden quiet changes the atmosphere. We sit in the sun and listen to contented quacks and little splashes as white, green and black ducks bob up and down, to and from the river bed, in search of yet more food. Although no that the giver of bread has left, there seems to be enough to go around and calm pervades this whole search.

“ Look at those ducks as they go around like vacuum cleaners, just getting the stuff off the surface.” Matt remarks to me.  “I think there must be lots of little bugs and those ducks are just going duoduoduoduoduo.”  ( That’s the noise ducks make when they vacuum apparently).


“Mmm. Mmmm, yeah going through and having a look at all the stuff I need to do, there’s a fair bit. Mmm.

More silence, other than me typing and recording every word my studying-husband-says.

I sit in much coveted sun. Sunlight is strong and warm here, but out of it, in the shadows, all you find is cold. I only need move one foot over to the shade of a tree to be frozen by the crisp air.

“Ohooo Wohoo wohoo” a bird cries in the distance, people murmur as they walk past and a car alarm sounds simultaneously.

There is a young couple about 20ms to our left who have set up a camera and are taking pictures of the lake and each other.  The ducks waddle past Matts feet, he watches them, distracted for a second from the overwhelming amount of work that still needs to be completed.

The shade has come over me, I need to move again before my bones freeze. So I do, leaves crunch deliciously under foot.

We met a lady earlier, I don’t know her name, and I doubt that I will ever see her again, but we met, and sat on the same hill together while she feed the ducks. She was the one who brought 6 bags of bread and started the mad rush for food from all surrounding ducks. They way they scrambled for it  reminded me of images of USAs black Friday.  She seemed kind, laughed while she told us that the ducks were her children and she loved them. “My best friends.” She said. “ My best friends”.  I thought it was sad that they were her best friends and hoped that this wasn’t really true.  They climbed ALL over her as they feed and she patted them in a very endearing way which made me smile.  She had short brown hair, was wearing joggers clothing and a foreign accent- European I think. From somewhere in Europe, although, I am sure she has lived here longer than I have, and maybe for many, many years.  After about 15 minutes, she finished feeding the ducks, got up, smiled, said “Have a good day” and left.  I liked her, I thought, if we knew each other longer, we would probably be friends and share coffee and stories of our lives.

I wonder about people, about their lives, about how few I know, about how many friends are yet undiscovered.

A little boy breaks the silence, “ HELLO!!!! HELLO DADDY!  ((hello – this is “Daddy” answering in a very subdued and slightly embarrassed way. ) DADDY!!!!! DADDY CAN WE STAY HERE!!!!! ( 2 second pause.) DADDY CAN WE GO OVER THERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OOOooohhhhhhWWWWWEEEE!! ( he whines)” He and his silent sister have now moved on, to, “over there”, I suppose.

“Bowalalala. I wouldn’t mind heading home before we, freeze.” Matt speaks to me again. “Mmm” I grunt back as I copy down his strange sounds and words. But he is right. The sun has left. There is no warmth in this fading light. If we don’t leave soon, freezing, is eminent. It has been a lovely hour.


Because this is my very favorite movie EVER on youtube, and because I just feel the need to share it about once every 6 months, and because sometimes we all just need a little validation…
Watch this if you want to smile =)

“Validation” is a fable about the magic of free parking. Starring TJ Thyne & Vicki Davis. Writer/Director/Composer – Kurt Kuenne. Winner – Best Narrative